Las Vegas Sun

June 15, 2019

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State mulls mental health fix: Privatizing

Gibbons meets with interested companies

With Nevada facing a potential 14 percent budget cut, the state is considering the possibility of turning all or part of its mental health system over to private companies to reduce costs.

Gov. Jim Gibbons and Mike Willden, director of the state Health and Human Services Department, have met with companies possibly interested in running the system.

“Privatization has vocal supporters and opponents,” said Carlos Brandenburg, former administrator of the state Mental Health and Developmental Services Division.

Gretchen Greiner, chairwoman of the state Commission on Mental Health and Developmental Services, questioned whether private companies would be interested in Nevada because of budget problems. “There’s no money for ourselves,” she said. “How are we going to get money to pay them?”

Commissioner Eric C. Albers added: “We’re lean already. How are we going to become much leaner?”

Greiner, of Elko, also expressed concern that privatization would cripple mental health in rural Nevada, which is short of services.

Although other states have used private companies to provide mental health services, Gibbons said he wants to ensure “there is no harm to the mental health care system” before making any change. Any savings would be plowed back into mental health, he said.

If the state’s budget is reduced by 14 percent in the next two fiscal years, Willden said, the mental health system faces a “significant reduction in the workforce.” But he added that vacant positions would be eliminated first.

•••

Evidence unexpectedly discovered during the search of a computer for other crimes can be used to convict a North Las Vegas man of possession of child pornography, a federal appeals court said.

When Francis E. Giberson was stopped in 2003 for a traffic violation in North Las Vegas, authorities discovered he had false identification cards. A check of records also revealed he was $103,000 behind in child support.

Federal agents obtained a search warrant for Giberson’s apartment to look for other evidence of false identification, tax records and his sources of income.

During the search the agents found transparencies of the Nevada state seal and false identification cards, including fake Social Security cards and birth certificates in others’ names.

While examining a computer, they found the child pornography. A new search warrant was obtained that led to more than 700 images of child pornography.

Giberson entered conditional guilty pleas to possession and receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to 60 months in prison.

In his appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Giberson argued that because the original search warrant was limited to false identification items, prosecutors should not have been able to introduce the images of child pornography as evidence.

But the court, in upholding the conviction, said limiting searches based on the format of the stored information would be arbitrary. “Computers, like briefcases and cassette tapes, can be repositories for documents and records,” the court said.

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